When Conversations Leave You Lonely
A Hope for the Helpers Blog
By Sonya Reeder
How many of our conversations really matter? What do you feel when it comes time to attend your small group at church?
I wonder if I sometimes talk just to hear myself talk or if I talk to impress those on the receiving end of me? In Larry Crabb’s book SoulTalk, he calls this “self talk” while encouraging us to learn to do more “soul talk.”
Recently, I sat with a small group of people that discussed their discouragement with church and the relationships they had there. Their discouragement came as they were thinking they would find more at church than in other areas of their life. This small group also consisted of stay-at-home moms that shared their feelings of loneliness. They talked about setting up playdates and joining a women’s Bible study, hoping for meaningful conversations in those places only to feel discouraged after attending. They were saying they felt like their “fellowship” time over dinner with friends and at church was about eating, discussing work, kids’s activities and talking about the local sporting event.
One lady spoke up, with some hesitancy, to say that even her Bible study evenings were filled with surface talk and hiding behind the correct exegesis of the passage they were studying. She went on to say how after being together weekly for four months, she knew very little about people’s personal lives and much less their personal souls.
I don’t think this kind of relating is what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote, “Let us think about ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another , especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) Perhaps the author of Hebrews had in mind for us to relate more in a soulish way that would invite what is most alive within us to be heard and seen. This invitation is accompanied by curiosity, presence, and availability.
If we want to encourage people to love more like Christ and to serve as He did, we must become people who empty ourselves in order to be available and present with others. Perhaps listening with an attentive curiosity to one’s stories might encourage them to persevere until the day of His return.
When one does speak from his or her soul, like my friend did as she shared her experience about being in Bible study at her church, we are often quick to correct or fix that person, while we fail to connect deeply with what is in their soul. Larry Crabb used to say that the real power in helping others to look more like Christ is not to do something to them but to join with them.
I wonder what kind of relationships we might have if we were willing to set aside ourselves and our agendas and join with one another by doing soul talk. As we listen and see into another person’s soul, perhaps then we could offer life-giving words into a soul that feels alone and unseen. If we relate like this in our times of being together, our conversations, our community, and our churches may become a place for others to rest and be encouraged as the day of Christ’s return draws near.
Sonya Reeder is an LPC-S and a Spiritual Director (under the training of Dr. Larry Crabb.) She co-authored Listen In with Rachael Crabb and Diana Calvin, and she recently finished writing, Spiritual Formation: Finding Christ in Your Story. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of Hope Road Counseling in Longview, Texas. Sonya is married to David of 35 years. While they are grateful for their children, they find much delight these days in playing and hanging out with their grandchildren.